Maximize your energy and brainpower, improve your sperm health, shorten recovery time, and lower your risk for chronic disease and cancer—by understanding oxidative stress and antioxidants.
You’ve heard of mitochondria before: the thousands of tiny “powerhouses” in each of your body’s trillions of cells that burn oxygen to make energy. But like most fuels, burning oxygen, though integral to our metabolism, comes at a cost: reactive oxygen species (ROS), or free radicals. These unstable molecules damage others and interfere with normal physiology, a process often called “oxidative stress.”
ROS aren’t all bad—they play an important role in combatting infections and dealing with malfunctioning cells, for example. But when ROS are unchecked, a chemical chain reaction of electron theft occurs, altering healthy cellular structure and destabilizing important components of our physiology.
Causes of increased oxidative stress
- excess/intense exercise
- emotional stress
- blood sugar imbalances
- poor diet
Its role in disease
Oxidative stress increases the likelihood of damage to important parts of our DNA, which may in turn lead to chronic diseases like cancer, and has been linked with aging, poor sperm health, and Alzheimer’s disease, while also increasing with age.
Role of antioxidants
Antioxidants neutralize unstable ROS, and our bodies produce the most important one: glutathione. But antioxidants work best as a team, each playing different roles in different parts of the body and supporting each other. Antioxidant phytonutrients, especially from plant foods, help recycle others. But what is most important is that you get a variety of antioxidants from a plant-based diet to reap the benefits of the synergy among them.
Getting our antioxidants
Never take antioxidant supplements as a standalone without a well-balanced diet and supporting free-radical quenchers. Singular antioxidants can be harmful: beta carotene supplementation is associated with increased lung cancer rates in smokers, and synthetic vitamin E is linked with increased heart disease risk.
Supplementing with functional foods such as superfood greens powders, which typically provide a diverse set of plant-based and synergistic phytonutrients, can provide important balance. To ensure maximum benefits, look for a greens powder that has been tested for potency and efficacy of the finished product.
Importance of balance
Whether achieved through diet alone, with help from supplements, or by leveraging functional foods such as superfood greens powders, managing oxidative stress and optimizing antioxidant balance may lower the risk for chronic diseases and lead to improved
- energy, quality of life, motivation, and libido
- brainpower, focus, and clarity
- recovery from exercise and injuries
- sperm health and fertility
To ensure safety and efficacy, speak to your trusted integrative health care practitioner about your options.